NorthEast United FC head coach Floyd Pinto expects his team to put up a good team performance as the Highlanders lock horns against Odisha FC in the second semi-final clash of the Hero Super Cup at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala on Saturday.

The semi-final clash brings two teams who have defied the odds in the Hero Super Cup with impressive performances against teams who finished above them in the Hero ISL campaign. The Highlanders topped Group D consisting of the Hero ISL League Shield winners Mumbai City FC and Chennaiyin FC who finished three places above them. Meanwhile, Odisha FC finished ahead of Hyderabad FC and East Bengal FC on their route to the semi-finals.

NorthEast United FC are coming into the fixture with two consecutive victories and having scored eight goals in the respective games displaying their attacking intent. Pinto shed light on how results and qualification are the byproducts of the standards and the performances the team has put up.

"More than the qualifications, I think it's the way we played, the performances that we put up in the last two games especially. After the Hero ISL season it was important to set standards, what's expected when you play for NorthEast United FC and I think the last two games have shown that this is the minimum requirement for every player who comes to the club, what he's supposed to do, when he wears that NorthEast United FC jersey. So we set our standards in respect to our performances, the results and the qualification is the byproduct of that," Pinto said in the pre-match press conference.

"He's in the team to put the ball in the back of the net, that's why we pay big bucks for the players, the strikers. I think he has done immensely well ever since he came to the club, he's taken the responsibility not as just a striker but also as a captain. On and off the field he's really good with the other foreign players, with the Indian players. During the games his performances speak for himself and more importantly he's well supported by everybody in the team and the players around know what his capabilities are and they know that if we provide the service for him, he's going to put the ball at the back of the net," he added.

The fixture brings two of the most in-form strikers in the country in Wilmar Jordan Gil of the Highlanders and Diego Mauricio for Clifford Miranda's team. Pinto talked about how the team effort has been crucial in their form and his anticipation of the fixture going to be a good one with Odisha FC boasting quality players.

"It's going to be a good game because both of the strikers are possibly in the best form of the season coming into the game but for us, it's been a team effort. We showed that in the last two games and if we play together, if we work hard for each other, if we stick to the game plan, it's not just Diego (Mauricio) that needs to be taken care of, there are really good quality players in that team that work around him, who provide the service for him. It's going to be a good game and I'm looking forward to a good team performance," Pinto commented.

NorthEast United FC had a difficult period in Hero ISL 2022-23 where the team managed only one victory out of 20 matches, the fewest ever but since the break, the club has taken new strides in order to change their fortunes with bringing Floyd Pinto in the mix. The 36-year-old expressed how the team spirit is at an all-time high and the players are much more mentally ready for the challenges.

"The month's preparation we had before the Hero Super Cup gave us an indication that the players are in much better shape when it comes to the fitness levels. More importantly, we observed that the players are much more mentally ready to play the Hero Super Cup. The team spirit in the camp has never been better. If you have that kind of confidence and you have that kind of motivation in the camp then anything is possible," Pinto stated. 

This is the second stint in the Hero Super Cup for Pinto, he led Indian Arrows in Hero Super Cup 2019 where his young team turned the tables around and earned a magnificent victory against Kerala Blasters FC. Pinto recalled the memory of the famous victory and reiterated the importance of belief to be shown in Indian players.

"For me, personally it's been really good. It started off with Indian Arrows in the Hero Super Cup 2019 and we surprised everybody by beating Kerala Blasters FC back then and it was a result that really gave us confidence. If you believe in Indian players, if you can provide the right platform for them with respect to training, nutrition, recovery etc then anything is possible. Ever since then it has reaffirmed my belief that no matter what you're up against, if you are confident in your philosophy, if you make the right training plans, give the right advice to your players, motivate them then anything is possible," Pinto concluded.